'The Stand': Get to Know the Characters on Both Sides of Stephen King's World

The Stand Jovan Adepo Odessa Young Greg Kinnear James Marsden
Robert Falconer/CBS

Stephen King's vision of a post-apocalyptic world decimated by plague and people struggling with the draw of good and evil comes to CBS All Access in December, and this intel might make the wait easier.

Series stars Whoopi Goldberg (Mother Abagail), James Marsden (Stu Redman), Greg Kinnear (Glen Bateman), Odessa Young (Frannie Goldsmith), Jovan Adepo (Larry Underwood), Amber Heard (Nadine Cross), and Owen Teague (Harold Lauder) and executive producers Benjamin Cavell and Taylor Elmore delved into The Stand and its characters during the series' New York Comic Con panel.

This was King's attempt to do Lord of the Rings in America, Cavell shared, adding, "the plague is the mechanism by which the world becomes a big empty place, but it really is about the struggle between good and evil that comes afterward."

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The CBS All Access limited series based on Stephen King's novel explores a world decimated by plague. 

While the series was written mostly in 2018, it is "a testament to how universal the book is and how prescient it is," he added, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. "It really seems to have resonance to the way the world has responded."

And they had a chance to "update the tropes" of the book with a modern-day lens and therefore deepen some of the characters, versus when King wrote the novel in the 1970s.

Below, the cast introduces their characters and where they fit in this world, with Mother Abagail on one side and Randall Flag, a.k.a. the Dark Man (Alexander Skarsgård) on the other.

The Stand, Series Premiere, Thursday, December 17, CBS All Access

Whoopi Goldberg The Stand Mother Abagail
Robert Falconer/CBS

Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg)

The character on the TV series is a bit different from the one in the book because it’s a different time, Goldberg said. “What Mother Abagail recognizes is change comes all the time. It’s a constant. It’s the one thing you always know is going to be there, so when she is awakened in her divineness, when it comes, she says, ‘this is what I’m supposed to do.’  Then she forgets she’s not God, she’s the messenger.

“It’s something that happens to people. Power can sometimes make your mind think you’re in charge, and that’s kind of the thing she has to figure out,” she continued, noting that what makes her different from the person she’s going up against, Randall Flagg. “He thinks he is God.”

Alexander Skarsgard The Stand Randall Flag
Robert Falconer/CBS

Randall Flag (Alexander Skarsgård)

While Skarsgård was not part of the panel, the executive producers discussed his character. They didn’t want to make characters on either side “cartoonish one thing or the other,” Cavell said. “It was very important to make Flagg seem like a viable option, somebody who one could imagine people following.”

Taylor: “Flagg, in the book represents almost the American rock ‘n’ roll version of the devil,” Elmore added. “You want to listen to what he has to say.”

James Marsden The Stand Stu Redman
Robert Falconer/CBS

Stu Redman (James Marsden)

Stu is a working-class guy from a small town in Texas and one of the few immune to the virus. He’s “very simple, doesn’t talk a lot, but he’s got a strong sense of morals. He has very strong opinions on what is right and wrong,” Marsden previewed. After seeing Mother Abagail in his dreams, he journeys to Boulder like other survivors do.

“He’s a level-headed human being who speaks only when he needs to,” so there’s a “real purpose” to when he speaks, which is why he becomes one of the leaders in Boulder, the actor added.

Odessa Young The Stand Frannie Goldsmith
James Minchin/CBS

Frannie Goldsmith (Odessa Young)

Frannie is a college student who learns she’s pregnant when the virus hits, so she’s “on this brink of adulthood” when the world falls apart,” Young teased. “Her hard decisions that she was going to have to make all of a sudden become a lot harder.” That continues as she figures out how to rebuild and who she can trust.

Owen Teague The Stand Harold Lauder
Robert Falconer/CBS

Harold Lauder (Owen Teague)

Something that separates Owen and Frannie from the others is they know each other, while everyone else has lost those they knew. Frannie was his babysitter and his sister was her best friend, and Harold’s bee in love with her his entire life.

“Harold’s tough. He’s been bullied and treated very badly all his life,” Teague shared. “He hasn’t had a lot of practice using [empathy]. He’s so caught up in this shell of anger and pain he’s build around himself.” So for him, it’s a question of whether he’ll leave behind or carry with him that Harold he was.

Jovan Adepo The Stand Larry Underwood
Robert Falconer/CBS

Larry Underwood (Jovan Adepo) 

“Larry is one of those guys that you meet where he can be incredibly charming and there’s so many favorable characteristics about him, and you’re confused why he isn’t more successful in different facets of his life,” Adepo, who wanted to put his “own spin” on the character but keep some similarities to the book, previewed. His problem is with his ego: “He wants to do the right thing, if he can, but he doesn’t know how to get out of his own way.”

Amber Heard Nadine Cross The Stand Gordon Cormier Joe
Robert Falconer/CBS

Nadine Cross (Amber Heard) 

We first see Nadine on the road. “We meet her lost and trying to literally and figuratively figure out her way and her place in the world,” Heard said. “Nadine is unique in her history. She has a long history with Flagg in ways that are not very clear and difficult to explain, but it’s that sort of grooming of a relationship and her as a human makes her decision ultimately represent the opposite side of what a lot of our hero characters face and ultimately choose one side or the other.

“Nadine represents the selfish interests. She functions with the goals that she has as a person, how does she save herself or her own motivations in this. In doing so and having that kind of focus, she represents the other side of the more selfless ‘how do we save each other’ mentality that so many of the other characters ultimately and thankfully choose.’

The Stand Odessa Young Greg Kinnear Glen Bateman James Marsden
Robert Falconer/CBS

Glen Bateman (Greg Kinnear)

Former sociology professor Glen (above, center) is “very wordy. He’s very thoughtful and he’s a bit of a poet about all of the things going on. He has philosophies that are being born on the spot and he’s sharing philosophies he’s carried around in his back pocket his whole life,” Kinnear shared.

“He’s getting to look around at the circumstance, very clear-eyed but he’s also somewhat cynical, and he’s also slightly untrusting of what’s going on, but I think he’s intrigued by the ride,” he continued. “When a crisis happens for most people … everything comes to a stop. Here was a guy whose life had already stopped,” retired, living in the woods with his dog, and his wife dead. So this crisis is “when his story really begins…. It’s kind of a re-awakening for the guy.”